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With their clout over federal judicial appointments taking a beating, New Jersey’s two senators are seeking to shore up their influence by joining forces. On Nov. 21, just 10 days after a published report that a Pennsylvania candidate is the White House favorite to fill a 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals seat that traditionally has been New Jersey’s, Sen. Robert Torricelli announced that he and Sen. Jon Corzine have formed a joint judicial nominations committee, supplanting the separate panels that Torricelli and Sen. Frank Lautenberg operated. The senators also say they have reached an understanding with President Bush’s counsel, Albert Gonzales, that for each judicial nominee that Bush sends to the Senate, the senators may send a nominee of their own. The arrangement would govern three existing vacancies and one expected vacancy on the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey. Torricelli’s statement said that the committee, which met for the first time Wednesday, “discussed the growing concern” that a district judge from Pennsylvania, Eduardo Robreno, was under consideration for the 3rd Circuit seat that was vacated when New Jersey’s Morton Greenberg went on senior status, as reported in the Law Journal Nov. 12. By unwritten rule New Jersey has traditionally had four judges on the 14-member 3rd Circuit bench; the Robreno appointment would reduce them to three. According to sources close to the nomination process, Torricelli was livid about the Robreno candidacy, especially since Torricelli and Corzine had withheld objections to the nomination of Christopher Christie as U.S. Attorney. The state’s federal practitioners criticized Christie’s lack of criminal trial experience. The State Bar and the Association of the Federal Bar of the State of New Jersey have sent letters to the White House protesting the candidacy of Robreno. Torricelli said he expects the new committee to consider applicants from private practice, public agencies and academia and to carefully consider candidates from southern New Jersey, saying it’s important that the district court appointees “reflect the geographic realities of our state.” The judicial advisory committee has two chairmen: Jonathan Goldstein, a former U.S. Attorney for the District of New Jersey who is a partner at Hellring, Lindeman, Goldstein & Siegal in Newark, N.J.; and Stephen Greenberg, a former Executive Assistant U.S. Attorney and partner at Stern & Greenberg in Roseland, N.J., who is now chief executive officer at telephone carrier Net2Phone. To protect applicants, the 21-member joint judicial selection committee will practice a policy of strict confidentiality, says Goldstein, a former U.S. Attorney and a partner at Hellring Lindeman Goldstein & Siegal in Newark.

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